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Affordable Alternatives for Expensive Cigars

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Let’s be honest… Premium smokes cost cold hard-earned cash. As much as we love an uber-rare, special occasion smoke that costs a pretty penny, most of us can’t afford to smoke them every day. Could you imagine having filet mignon every afternoon for lunch at a ritzy steakhouse? Sounds delicious, but the tab would add up fast. That doesn’t mean you have to eat Easy Cheese on Triscuits seven days a week.

Aficionados with highfalutin taste don’t have to settle for mixed-filler cigars, machine-made smokes, or cheapo bundles just because they’ve fallen for a cigar that soars over the $30-apiece threshold. We’ve put together some affordable alternatives to more exorbitantly priced cigars to keep top-shelf taste well within reach without decimating your pocketbook.

Expensive: Davidoff ($9-$40)  

For decades, Davidoff has embodied its top-shelf white-glove image with some pretty high price tags, and relative impunity. Although Davidoff has been made in the Dominican Republic since the late 1980s, the brand was originally crafted in Cuba before issues with quality arose that led brand founder Zino Davidoff to seek production elsewhere.

Today, some of the most expensive and sought-after cigars in the world happen to be the remaining Cuban Davidoffs from the ‘80s era, some selling for nearly $1000 per cigar! Ouch. Despite the brand’s already pricey portfolio of Dominican cigars, with certain shapes reaching $40 apiece or more for limited editions, they produced a cigar in 2014, called Davidoff Oro Blanco, which you could taste for a paltry sum of $500 for one cigar.

Alternative: Ashton Classic ($7.50-$13.50)

If that’s a bit rich for your blood, Ashton Classic will taste like magic beginning at $7.50. The iconic blend is sold in over 60 countries around the world and has been a top-rated cigar for decades.

Alternative: Ashton Cabinet Selection ($9.75-$21.50)

Starting at $9.75 per cigar, Ashton Cabinet Selection deserves to be on your radar as well. Ashton Cabinet Selection is an ultra-refined, aged reflection of the recipe used in Ashton Classic.

Both Davidoff and Ashton rely on a relatively mild, creamy recipe of premium aged Dominican tobaccos. Ashton is actually drafted with an authentic Connecticut Shade wrapper, while Davidoff cigars are made with an Ecuador Connecticut. Also, because Ashton Classic and Ashton Cabinet Selection are blended from top to bottom by legendary cigar-maker Carlito Fuente and rolled at the Fuente family’s prestigious Dominican factory, you won’t be sacrificing a hint of taste or quality. You’re simply saving money.

Expensive: Dominican Montecristo ($8.40-$18.29)  

As one of the most popular Cuban-legacy brands, Montecristo enjoys a sizeable audience. The brand is well-known for its mellow, approachable Dominican taste and recognizable name, however there are very few cigars under $10 apiece in Montecristo’s portfolio, unless they’re on sale. Most Montecristo cigars occupy the $12-15 range.

Alternative: San Cristobal Elegancia ($6.45-$8.15)

A more-than-worthy substitute exists with San Cristobal Elegancia. Award-winning cigar-maker Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia blends the brand from a silky Ecuador Connecticut wrapper leaf and a mild to medium-bodied recipe of premium Nicaraguan long-fillers. Note of white pepper, cashews, and coffee beans satisfy seamlessly starting at $6.45.

Alternative: Oliva Connecticut Reserve ($6.86-$10.34)

The bestselling Oliva brand delivers an approachable and creamy cigar with Oliva Connecticut Reserve. Almonds, cocoa, and notes of coffee with cream create an easygoing, mellow profile for a digestible price.

Alternative: Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne ($7-$9.50)

Beginning at $7, Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne is also handcrafted to an impeccable standard in a mild and nutty Nicaraguan profile available in a variety of bigger ring gauges.

Expensive: Dominican Cohiba ($10.49-$22.79)  

Cohiba is an equally well-known Cuban-legacy brand best-known for its Dominican blends, particularly the classic “Red Dot” Cohiba. For years, the cigar’s been drafted from a balanced recipe of Dominican tobaccos beneath a gingerbread-hued Cameroon wrapper leaf, all of which begin in the vicinity of $20 per cigar.  

Not unlike Davidoff’s inclination to “shake the tree” with an over-the-top option, the makers of Cohiba released Cohiba Spectre in 2018 for a whopping $90 per cigar. A box of 10 only costs $900, so I suppose it’s a steal compared to the Davidoff Oro Blanco.

Alternative: Arturo Fuente Hemingway ($6.25-$15.20)

In seeking reasonable Cohiba alternatives, it’s impossible to ignore the 94-rated Arturo Fuente Hemingway for between roughly $6 and $15 apiece when we’re looking for a less-expensive (many would argue superior) comparison. For decades, Carlito Fuente has had his pick of the litter when it comes to procuring Cameroon tobaccos from Central Africa for his wrappers. It’s tough to beat the taste, consistency, and reputation of Hemingway.

Alternative: La Aroma de Cuba ($5-$7.45)

La Aroma de Cuba is considered a ‘#1 Cigar Industry Best Buy’ by Cigar Aficionado and reflects another marvelous medium-bodied substitute starting at $5 per cigar. Notes of brown sugar, black pepper, and earth characterize the 93-rated blend.

Alternative: Padron ($5-$8.90)

For between $5 and $10.40, a sizeable variety of shapes in the introductory Padron line are handmade in your choice of a Natural or Maduro wrapper leaf. Padron hosts a marvelous pedigree for its award-winning profile of cedar, nuts, and spices.

Expensive: Cubans ($50+)  

It’s not surprising you can really get into some big bucks when you’re shopping for Cubans. Bolivar, Montecristo, Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Partagas, and Trinidad all command hefty prices. Back in 2010, Cigar Aficionado awarded the Cuban Cohiba Behike a 97-point score with ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ honors. The medium to full-bodied Cuban Puro is made in small batches that sell for roughly $80 to $110 (or more) per cigar, depending on where you’re buying them. With all the hoopla and the I-want-what-I-can’t-have allure of Cuban cigars, we’ve been getting questions for years from cigar lovers wondering if Cubans are worth the fuss. In short, no. Fluctuations in quality and consistency have plagued Cuban cigars for years. Not all are bad, but most will set you back more than a few bucks – and for what? Mediocre smokes?

Alternative: Fuente Fuente Opus X ($25+)

For far more reasonable prices, you can get your hands on a number of top-shelf Dominican and Nicaraguan brands. Fuente Fuente Opus X isn’t exactly easy to find due to its scarcity. And although some of the more elusive sizes can stretch up over $50 apiece, it’s not unheard of to buy standard shapes beginning at $25 per cigar, or less.

Alternative: Ashton Symmetry ($12.25-$13.45)

Ashton Symmetry is a phenomenally “Cubanesque” cigar thanks to its many distinct tobaccos. Carlito Fuente blended Ashton Symmetry from a gorgeous reddish-brown Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador and an intricate marriage of both Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos on the interior. Its sweet and zesty profile starts at $12.25 in an elegant Corona called a Prism.

Alternative: My Father ($8.80-$12)

My Father hails from Nicaragua at the hands of Pepin Garcia – a master cigar-maker who built his career blending premium cigars in Cuba. He left Cuba for the States in the early 2000s to make cigars of superior quality for the U.S. market. Today, he’s got two ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ titles to his credit and dozens of top-ratings. The classic My Father collection starts at $8.80 per cigar.

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